I think we can all agree that December is a hectic time for many of us. On top of work and/or education, we have the added pressure of buying Christmas presents, attending Christmas parties, and if you are brave enough, sticking to a Blogmas schedule (I seriously applaud anyone who is brave enough to attempt it, you are the real MVP).
I’m in quite a fortunate position because the vast majority of my family members live in Russia and do not celebrate Christmas. I can focus on the enjoyable side of the holidays a bit more while taking it easy on my bank account. However, there have certainly been periods in my life – for example, when I was preparing for exams in May earlier this year – when I could not focus on anything other than a particular objective and ended up neglecting my exercise routine, which for me happens to be a vital form of self care.
And by ‘neglecting my exercise routine’, I do not mean I went to the gym five times a week as opposed to six. I literally did not move from my chair for a wholesome twenty days except for walking to and from the train station, which is a decision that I lived to regret: finding some spare moments each day to get in physical activity would have only boosted my productivity, without being the dreaded waste of time I feared it would become. Moreover, when I eventually returned to the gym, my strength and endurance had decreased by at least a third, and I could not perform even the most basic exercises without a pain in my joints.
Needles to say, I have learnt from my mistakes and nowadays, no matter how busy my schedule gets, I make room for some form of physical activity. Sure, when I have deadlines and work and endless to-do lists, I may not be able to whip out a ninety minute strength and cardio session every day, but even a small amount of movement is better than nothing. There are times in my life when I have the luxury of being able to work out for as long as my heart desires, and at other times I am much more constrained – an expected occurrence given the way in which work can pile up in the blink of an eye. In such cases, I ensure to remind myself of all the benefits of exercise and that sidelining it will only make me feel worse in the long run.
‘Insufficient time’ is one of, if not the most common fitness excuse. Thus, I have compiled a list of tips that have helped me, and will hopefully help others stay (somewhat) active during those hectic periods in our lives. And as I’ve suggested above, we certainly should not feel guilty for skipping the gym or finding that your ‘fitness goals’ have slid down our list of priorities. However, as my experience shows, we should avoid becoming sedentary to the point where a lack of exercise starts to have an impact on both our mental and physical health.
Wake up earlier
This may be difficult to hear, but simply waking up thirty minutes earlier may be all you need to squeeze in a yoga session, a run or even a walk around your neighbourhood. I personally prefer working out in the evening because I am at my most mentally productive in the early hours and use that time to tackle the bulk of my work, but many people like to exercise as soon as possible after waking up. Getting out of bed, especially when *sings* the weather outside is frightful, and jumping straight into a workout may be difficult, but it will energise you and boost your metabolism for the rest of the day, while balancing out hours of upcoming sedentary activity.
Improve your time management skills
I will be covering this in more depth in a future blog post, but at times we may think that we are more busy than we actually are because we’re not very good at managing our time effectively and/or struggle with procrastination. People who are more efficient at managing their daily tasks will undoubtedly find more room in their schedules for themselves. You can start by reading my post on procrastination if this is a habit of yours, or this wonderful post by my blogging pal Mia which covers a whole range of techniques on how to find time when all of it seems to be going down the drain.
Extra tip: whenever I am particularly snowed under (in a metaphorical sense because the only actual snow we got in my area melted within thirty minutes *cries*), I like to micromanage my time, i.e., plan my day out in fifteen minute chunks so that not a single moment is wasted: this allows me to allocate time slots to both exercise and leisurely activities. While I understand that this is quite rigid/excessive, it works for me as a short-term technique when rigidity is the only option.
Try HIIT (high intensity interval training)
If you have never heard of HIIT, it is essentially a form of exercise where you alternate bursts of high-intensity activity with periods of rest/low-intensity movements such as marching in place. This can take many forms, such as 20 seconds on/10 seconds rest, 50 seconds on/10 seconds rest, etc. HIIT is personally one of my favourite forms of exercise because a 15-30 minute session can be just as effective as an hour long low intensity workout. An added bonus is that it is a great way to combine strength and cardio (to save you from doing them separately), and distance yourself from the monotony of cardio machines. With just a timer and an optional pair of dumbbells, you can easily squeeze in an effective workout a few times a week without even having to leave the house.
Wear your gym clothes
Okay, I understand that this won’t be possible for those of you who work in an office with a strict dress code. However, I always underestimate how long it takes to get changed from one outfit into another, especially when I do not have enough time to organise my wardrobe. If you are a student or you work from home, wearing all or at least a part of your gym kit can save a few precious minutes here and there, and can look much more socially acceptable than you’d imagine. Think black leggings with an oversized hoodie and sneakers – this is one of my go-to looks for those days when I want to save myself the effort of returning home to get changed.
Maximise movement throughout the day
Sometimes, if getting to an actual gym or doing an actual workout isn’t an option, you can still make an effort to stay moderately active throughout the day. I find that if I don’t stand up and do a few stretches every couple of hours while working on my computer, I start to feel sluggish and my productivity plummets. Go for a ten minute walk around your neighbourhood, do a couple of squats (once again, I’d avoid doing this in an office environment because it may come across as slightly questionable), take the stairs whenever the opportunity arises. These little things may seem insignificant, but will add up over the course of the entire day and prove much more beneficial than sitting in the same place for hours and hours.
Alright friends, I wholeheartedly hope you found my little tips at least somewhat helpful because I know how tricky it is to balance commitments to your health with other obligations. However, taking care of the former is essential to laying the foundations for a more fulfilling and productive life. Let me know in the comments – are you a regular gym goer? How do you like to stay active whenever life is busier than usual?
Lots of love, Maria ♡